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Communicate With Your Legislators

If you are especially interested in a particular issue, write, call, or arrange to visit your elected representatives to let them know where you stand. Write letters to the editor or opinion columns to your local newspaper, television or radio outlet, and relevant Blogs and other Internet forums. Your opinions matter, but only if you express them.
MORE: Although e-mail has become the common form of communication, in most cases, when contacting elected officials, a well-written, words-on-paper letter is most likely to draw attention. And your letter to an elected official is most likely to be read if you follow a these simple rules:

• Be polite
• Be specific
• Be positive
• Be brief


As a matter of courtesy, Use title, full name, and complete, proper postal address. To ensure your letter is routed properly, include the legislator’s district. Note there are separate ZIP codes for the House of Representatives (83720-0038) and the Senate (837-020-0081).

The correct form of address for members of the House of Representatives is:
The Honorable Representative (Full name)
Legislative district number
Idaho State Legislature
State Capitol Building
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, Idaho 83720-0038
And for the Senate:
The Honorable Senator (Full name)
Legislative district number
Idaho State Legislature
State Capitol Building
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, Idaho 83720-0081

The same general rules apply for creating an e-mail message, especially during legislative sessions, when members are most busy. The Legislature’s Web site provides convenient e-mail forms for contacting legislators, which can be found here. Fill in your contact information and state your case briefly, and click on the “I’m not a robot”
icon.
Several legislators have told us they welcome communication from their constituents, although they are sometimes discouraged, or even put off, by rude, rambling messages. Don’t be discouraged if you do not receive an immediate reply. Keep in mind each legislator represents thousands of constituents.
Consider the value of follow-up communication. Depending upon the circumstances, you may want to write a follow-up or reminder to your legislator about your concerns. Thank your legislator for considering your position, regardless of the outcome. And don’t be discouraged.
Letters do take more effort, both to send and to receive, than e-mail messages, and they therefore warrant more attention. It is easier to overlook an e-mail than it is to disregard a letter (particularly a handwritten letter).
Be specific.
Keep your letter focused by addressing only one issue or topic, and state your main purpose in the opening paragraph of your letter.
Personalize your message.
Make your message unique; don’t just copy a form letter and send it. Sending a dozen cut-and-paste copies of the same message is not effective, and can even be counterproductive.
Instead, introduce yourself, and explain who you are and why you are concerned about the issue. Tell your personal story to establish why you are qualified to address the topic you’re writing about.
Support your position.
When you write your letter, and as you write, be honest and accurate in the information you present. Use specific statistics, numbers, or examples. Saying generally that you don’t like a certain proposal or bill won’t get you very far. State how the problem or issue you are addressing directly affects you personally. While being passionate about an issue is important, it is better to keep your message factual, rather than emotional.
Make your request.
Indicate the specific action that you would your legislator to take. If you are for or against a particular bill or proposed legislation, say what you hope your lawmaker will do about it, but do so as a request, not a demand.
Be courteous.
No matter how upset you might feel, be courteous and professional. This is one point many legislators have told us they find most disappointing. Don’t resort to demands, mud-slinging, name-calling, swearing, or similar rants.
Keep you letter short.
Your representatives are busy; make their lives easier by stating clearly and concisely what you want, and why. Keep your letter to one page, if possible.
Close your letter.
Close your letter by restating your purpose and repeating your request. Thank the legislator for taking the time to consider your message.
Read it again.
Before you sign and seal your letter, make sure to proofread it first. Ensure that you have not left out any important, pertinent information. If you’ve repeated yourself or if something isn’t as clear as it could be, revise. After making any necessary changes, read over your letter one more time to check for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and other errors.
Know that your voice counts.
Legislators are elected to serve you, as a voting member of a democratic society. Most Idaho lawmakers are everyday people who sincerely want to represent faithfully the concerns of those they serve. And they understand that without your vote, and that of others like you, they will not remain in office. Moreover, because representatives receive relatively few personal letters, your letter may get more attention than you think.

Lobby Corps
The heart of Transform Idaho's volunteer membership is the Lobby Corps, regular people just like you, willing to engage and follow the activities of our legislators and local lawmakers at public meetings and town hall sessions, at legislative hearings, and at gatherings where they are likely to speak. When the Legislature is in session, most committee hearings and other meetings open to the public are also available by live audio and video streaming, here. Idaho is a big state, and we want all our elected officials to know we are paying attention to what they do and what they say.


TransForm Idaho welcomes volunteers at all levels, including board members to help plan and guide our programs and outreach activities. We need volunteers with specific skills and interests, and those willing to commit the time and energy needed to provide the best information and educational services to Idaho citizens. We need volunteer speakers, organizers, educators, specialists, envelope stuffers, researchers, and everyday folks who want to help make Idaho better. To learn more and register your interest as a volunteer, send us a message at volunteer@transformidaho.org.


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